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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

316                The Loom of Language
meaning Thus some grammar books called the English genitive the
possessive, but we have seen (p 116) how little connexion it need have
to any property relationship It is even more difficult to define the
Latin genitive in all circumstances. Grammarians became aware of
this long ago, and split it into a possessive genitive (cams puellae, the dog
of the girl), a partitive genitive (pars corpons, a part of the body),, a
qualitative genitive (homo magnae ingenuitatis, a man of great frankness),
an objective genitive (laudator tempons acti, a booster of bygone times),
etc. It is doubtful whether such distinctions help the victim of classical
tuition In Latin, as an the more highly-inflected living Indo-European
languages such as German and Russian, the genitive is so elusive
that Hermann Paul, a famous German linguist, defined it as the case
"that expresses any relation between two nouns."
The functional obscurities of the cases of Classical Latin, in contra-
distinction to the well-defined meaning of the case-affixes in an agglu-
tinating language such as Finnish, would make it a difficult language,
even if the case-affixes were fixed as they are fixed in Finnish The
truth is that the connexion between form and context is as flimsy as the
connexion between form and function The irregularity of Classical
Latin burdens the memory with an immense variety of forms assigned
to the same case Just as English nouns belong to different families based
on their plural derivatives such as man-men, ox-oxen^ house-houses^ Latin
nouns form case-derivatives in many ways So if you know the genitive
affix of a particular Latin noun, you cannot attach it to another without
courting disaster According to their endings, Latin nouns have been
squeezed into five families or declensions, each of which has its sub-
divisions The table opposite gives a specimen of the nominative and
accusative singular and plural case-forms of each.
Unlike the Finnish or Hungarian noun, that of Latin has no specific
trade-mark to show if it is singular or plural In the first declension for
instance, a word-form such as rosae is genitive and dative singular, as
well as nominative plural In the second declension domino is dative and
ablative singular, and domini is genitive singular and nominative plural
The accusative, singular and plural, of a neuter noun is always identical
with the nominative, while the dative plural of every Latin noun tallies
with the ablative Case-endings do not always change from one class to
another. The word dominus, which is of the second declension, has the
same ending in the nominative and accusative singular as fructus, which
is of the fourth, and a word ending in -er may belong to the second (ager>
acre) as well as to the third (paler., father), while one in -es may be of
the third (fames, hunger) and of the fifth (dies, day) Even within one
and the same class the genitive plural may show different endings, e g